IRS Asked to Investigate Rove's "Crossroads GPS"

As you know, thanks to the utter incompetence of Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, and thanks to the Supreme Court's un-American ruling in the Citizens United case, Republican front groups have been propping up everywhere to spend limitless cash to elect the truly crazy in this year's crop of Republican Tea Party candidates.  One such group, the brainchild of Karl Rove (well, his second brainchild, after his first brainchild, the Bush presidency worked out so well for the American people), is American Crossroads.  What you may not know is that American Crossroads is actually two organizations.  There's American Crossroads, the 527 group organized for the purpose of influencing elections.  Its donors must be disclosed to the public.  Then there's Crossroads GPS (the "GPS" stands for "Grassroots Policy Strategies"), a 501(c)(4) group that is not required to disclose its donors but as a consequence, cannot have as its "primary purpose" advocating for or against candidates in elections.

But of course, Karl Rove has never cared about rules.  The 501(c)(4) group is being used simply to shield donors who do not feel comfortable having their names associated with the group, and founded just months ago, they are engaging -- at least as far as we can see -- almost exclusively in electoral activities.  This is illegal.  And so, two watchdog groups, Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, are now asking the IRS to investigate the tax status of Crossroads GPS.
Two campaign finance watchdog organizations released a letter to the Internal Revenue Service today, requesting that it investigate whether a nonprofit advocacy group tied to Karl Rove was violating federal tax laws with its involvement in this year’s midterm elections.

The group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, is set up as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means that, by law, its “primary purpose” is not supposed to be political. Yet it has been the biggest third-party player on television in Senate races across the country over the last two months, according to data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising.
This drew my attention because I used to be a consultant to a 501(c)(4) organization, and much of my duties involved researching the law for activities protected under that tax status.

The complaint here alleges that the Rovian operation was founded specifically with the primary purpose of influencing elections - namely, electing Republicans and opposing Democratic candidates.  The letter to the IRS documents the extensive electoral involvement of the group, as well as the lack of "social welfare activities" which should be the primary purpose of a 501(c)(4).  Crossroads GPS has taken leading role in spending ad dollars in 11 Senate races, targeting Democratic incumbents and candidates.  Their prime targets include Barbara Boxer in California, Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, Jack Conway in Kentucky, Michael Bennett in Colorado, Robin Carnahan in Missouri, and of course Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.  I have linked to each one of their campaign websites so that you can show them some love to fight back against Karl Rove's attacks.  Donate, volunteer, and do whatever you can!

All of their attack ads against the Democratic candidates follow the same theme: the despicable flat-out lies about health care reform cutting Medicare (when in reality, reform simply stopped subsidizing private insurers at a rate 14% above the traditional Medicare to provide the same coverage) and raising taxes (when in reality, the Recovery Act cut taxes for 95% of Americans, and Democrats have voted to close tax loopholes that help corporations ship jobs overseas).  So as a matter of fact, not only is their primary operation supposed to not be running ads to influence elections, the ads they are running are lies that favor corporate giveaways at the taxpayers' expense.  But of course, that's nothing you didn't already know.

According to news reports quoted in the complaint, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS plan to raise and spend $50 million to attack Democrats and help Republicans in this election cycle.  And just which one do you think is going to raise and spend most of that cash?  The 527 (American Crossroads) that requires disclosure of its donors?  Hell no.  It will be Crossroads GPS, which can raise unlimited cash without zero public disclosure.  As a report quoted in the complaint stated,
A new political organization conceived by Republican operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie formed a spin-off group last month that – thanks in part to its ability to promise donors anonymity – has brought in more money in its first month than the parent organization has raised since it started in March.
And thus the complaint lays out the case against the tax status for Crossroads GPS, and asks the IRS to investigate, and take steps to revoke that status if warranted.
First, the organization was created just months before the 2010 congressional elections, was conceived, organized and staffed by leading political party strategists and operatives, self-defined its activities as spending money in Senate races and is closely affiliated with other organizations similarly committed to spending large sums to influence the 2010 congressional races.

Second, the activities of the organization are targeted to battleground states involving key Senate races, and to supporting Republican candidates in those elections.

Third, the ads run by the organization identify candidates by name, discuss the candidates’ position on issues in the midst of a campaign and do so in ways that criticize the positions of the Democratic candidates opposed by Crossroads GPS.

Fourth, the timing of the group’s activities do not correspond with external events outside the group’s control, such as a legislative vote on an issue, but rather correspond with congressional election campaigns.
Okay, so what can I do, you are asking.  Well, it turns out there is something you can do.  We can create pressure on the IRS to give this letter some heed and begin investigating Rove's donor-sheltering group.  I called the Department of Treasury (of which IRS is a department) and found out that the IRS does not have a public comment line, but in its stead, it does have the Taxpayer Advocate's office.  You can contact the Taxpayer Advocate:
  • By calling (202) 622-4115
  • Direct a twitter comment @YourVoiceAtIRS
    Here's my tweet:
  • @YourVoiceAtIRS Investigate Crossroads GPS' 501(c)(4) status, complaint filed by Democracy 21 and Campaign Legal Center http://bit.ly/bIqm9k
    Feel free to copy, paste or re-tweet if you like.
You can also write/call your member of Congress and Senators and ask them to pressure the IRS to investigate.

It is critically important that political operatives not be able to get away with hiding their donors behind a tax status they should not be able to get in the first place.  We all know what Rove's organizations do, and it's not social welfare.  An investigation, at the minimum is warranted as per this complaint.